In the industry, it is known as "popping the territory".

Before it became a television and internet phenomenon through the globally recognised WWE, the wild world of professional wrestling would do its best business in local towns and cities, usually off the success of one show.

Either a particular match, storyline, or a popular or even an infamous wrestler would leave such an impact on the town's audience that they could not wait to come back again.

Whanganui Prison Corrections Department officer Benjamin Thorpe knows all about that "pop", as he felt the loud crowd reaction from 230 fans at the racecourse in February last year when he walked through the curtain under his wrestling persona "Ben Mana" for the main event of Whanganui Warfare.


The show was the debut for Auckland-based company Impact Pro Wrestling (IPW) in Whanganui and management were so pleased with the turnout, which saw them put out extra chairs as more people arrived, they immediately announced a return show for 2019, which is on Saturday night.

The large audience cheering for him has also inspired Thorpe, who last year was coming off a long layoff from wrestling due to a knee injury.

He rejoined the circuit and wrestled more shows for IPW and other companies in the North Island, while starting up a local wrestling school that currently has 7-8 trainees.

"All of us in the backstage area were listening to the crowd before the show started and we were amazed with the reception," Thorpe said.

"We figured if we were going to get a reception like this at our first show, what would it be if we went back?"

Tickets have been available online for months and the front row has long sold out, with the prospect the crowd this time could be between 400-500 people.

"From what I've been told by IPW management, it's going to be double if not more," said Thorpe, who had to get special permission for his prison bosses to take annual leave after it initially did not look like they could roster him off.

Allowing Thorpe to slip into his character Mana, 'The Modern Day Maori Warrior', he tells the story of his opponent on Saturday in Liger, aka Michel Mulipola, 'The Strong Style Samoan'.


The storyline origin of their feud goes back to the original show when Liger defeated the other Whanganui wrestler on the IPW roster in Bradical, aka Brad Fisher, and then continued to brutally attack him after the bell.

"The way I see it, [Liger] put up an open challenge last year, and one of our local boys, Bradical, stepped up," said Thorpe as Mana.

"He had to go and make a statement and put this guy on the shelf, which I believe he did as he suffered a concussion and hasn't wrestled since.

"I think to myself, 'how about he come and pick on someone of equal size and strength'?"

Liger represents a tough challenge as a former IPW heavyweight champion and tag team champion, while Mana, who was narrowly defeated in his challenge to then IPW champ Mr Burns, aka David Gerbault, does not want to go 0-2 in front of his supporters.

"I'm going to try and get some redemption from the loss I got last year," Mana said.

"I've only stepped in the ring once with him before, I think it was seven years ago.

"The last thing I remember is him smashing me with a 'lead pipe' in the back of the head."

Thorpe is also proud to be helping produce the next generation of wrestlers from Whanganui, as following last year's show a work colleague who had previously done some training in Auckland asked him to help get back into it.

"Word got around town and I got a text from guy's saying, 'you've started a wrestling school'?"

Thorpe is now training a group of students and one of them has just been invited to join the respected 'Fale Dojo' in Auckland, owned by Fale Simitaitoko, who performs internationally for New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

Doors open at the Wanganui Racecourse on Saturday at 6.30pm for the 7pm show.

Tickets can be purchased at the door, although it is recommended to go online to eventfinda and search Impact Pro Wrestling: Whanganui Warfare 2019.